Farmers Perception towards the Implementation of Soil and Water Conservation Practices in Southern Ethiopia

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2022

21 Pages, Grade: 3.91

Free online reading

Table of contents


Materials and Methods

Data Analysis

Result and Discussion
Demography and Land holding Size
Soil Fertility Management and Perception on erosion hazard
Participation and Perception on Effectiveness and Maintenance of SWC Structures




Tesfaye Tanto


Soil erosion is one of the major challenges in Ethiopia and affecting crop productivity. To overcome the problem and improve productivity, soil and water conservation (SWC) practices are widely implemented under campaign involving the local community. This research investigated farmer perception towards implementation of SWC practices and its effectiveness. 71 randomly selected farmers in Bashe Microwatershed, Southern Ethiopia.The result showed that the The result showed that the slope of the area varied from 1-116 % which is from flat to hilly topopraphy and more than 64% is under strong to hilly slope category. Majority of farmers (67.6%) have small land size below 0.5 ha and consequently farming has been taking place to the extent of very sensitive mountainous environment. About 84.5% explained that soil erosion is critical problem affecting crop production and perceived it as a manageable problem. 70.6% perceived that implementation of SWC practices reduced runoff and soil erosion in their cultivated land. However, 84.5% of respondents have implemented SWC practices on their farm land where as 16 % are not willing to construct conservation structures reasoning labor shortage, reduced land size and pests. Fanyajuu was more prefered (59.2%) SWC structure type followed by soil bund (22.4%) and bench terrace (8.4%). About 86.6% of respondents replied that SWC was fit to the puropose and 91% maintained the structures within two year. With different reasons, 78.4% of respondents stabilized the physical with of biological measures. About 71.4% witnessed the yield grain advantage after doing SWC practices on their cultivated lands. Yet, the time to realize the return depends on the degree of degradation. It was noted that 80% has started realizing better crop stand and yield increment two years after implementation of SWC The amount of soil organic carbon varied between 1.34% and 1.74% for non-conserved cultivated land and integrated SWC for 5 years, respectivly. Wheat biomas yield measurement also indicated that integrated SWC for 5 year significantly resulted 11ton/ha which is 85.5% more than the minimum from non-conserved cultivated farm (5.93 ton/ha). Furthermore, the grain yield was significantly varied between 2.47 t/ha-1 (non conserved land) and 4.27t/ha-1 (integrated SWC for 5 years). It is concluded that SWC practices have positive impacts in restoring soil quality and thery by increasing crop productivity, however, the soil restoration effect is more pronounced and the area occupied by the structure is compensated when physical SWC measures integrated with biological measures.

Key words: Productivity, Fanyajuu, Biological Measures, Soil Erosion.


Soil is slowly renewable dynamic natural resource that determines the ultimate sustainability of any agricultural system. Water movement, water quality, land use, and vegetation productivity all have relationships with soil. Soils provide food, fodder and fuel for meeting the basic human and animal needs (Schoonover and Crim, 2015). Land degradation is one of the major challenges inagricultural productions in many parts of the world, especially in developing nations like Ethiopia (Dagnew, 2007 and Fikru, 2009). Land degradation typically occurs because of land management practices or human development that is not sustainable over a period of time (Fitsum, et al., 1999). Land degradation in the form of erosion and soil fertility depletion is a major challenge limiting crop production and natural resource conservation in Ethiopia (Fanuel et al., 2016; Tekleu et al., 2018). The principal causes are rapid population growth and improper land resources management and utilization which finally declining agricultural productivity (Nigusse et al, 2013; Fanuel et al., 2016). The soil conservation research project estimate an average soil loss of 12/t/ha/year on cultivated land and maximum of 300-400t/ha/year in highly erodibile and intensively serial cultivated field (Hurni and Zeleke, 2005). Beyound these, high rate of population growth in the country leads to conversion of grazing and forest land in to crop land to produce more inorder to secure food. However, these actions facilitates deforestation and more degradation of the land because overgrazing of pasture lands, community uses crop residues as sources of fuel rather as mulch and cow dung as fuel rather as manure. All these factors speed up loss of nutrient and soil erosion (Jabbar, et al. 2002). In order to allivate the problem Ethiopian government has for a long time recognized the serious implications of continuing soil erosion and hence large national soil and water conservation (SWC) program were implemented in the 1970s and 1980s (MOARD, 2005). Since 1980, the government has supported rural land rehabilitation, these aimed to implement natural resource conservation and development programs in Ethiopia through watershed development (MOARD, 2005). Watershed management has moved from a focus on physical soil and water conservation and utilization to the integration of social, economic, and environmental development. Gebreslassie and Tamirat (2015) explained that soil bund, fanyajuu bund and deep trench structures are widely implemented physical SWC structures to conserve farm land from soil erosion.

In Bashe watershed the rapid population growth rate had forced the farming socities to expand their crop land by clearing the forest and converting their grazing land. When they clear the forest land they were exposing the land to sever erosion, loss of nutrients and further land degradation, which finally results low productivity. Inaddition to this, inappropriate land management, cultivation of slope land and low coverage of crop lands with residues accelerates the soil erosion to harm the lives of communities in Bashe watershed (Damot Gale Woreda Agricultural Office, 2016 and Damot Gale Woreda Finance and Economic Development, 2018). To end these problems huge amount of physical Soil and Water Conservation practices were implemented under government campaign. However, farmers may practice different conservation measures depending on their degree of perception of the problem of land degradation and awareness of the conservation measures available around them (Shiferaw and Bantilan, 2004). Thus, knowing status of the farmer's intention towards implementation of soil and water conservation to allivate the problem of soil erosion is very crucial. Therefore, the objective of this study is to assess farmers' perception in implementation of soil and water conservation Practices and the effectiveness of conservation practices reducing soil erosion in Wolaita Zone, Southren Nation, and Nationalities Peoples Regional State.

Materials and Methods

Descripition of study area

Study was conducted in Bashe micro watershed (37°47'37.829" E and 6°56'23.7" N) with altitudinal range of 2085-2601 m above sea level (masl) which is found in Akabilo Kebele, Damot Gale Woreda, Wolaita Zone, and Southern Nation Nationalities People Regional State (SNNPRS) Ethiopia (Figure 1). Damot Gale is one of densly populated Woreda in Wolaita zone with a total population of 154,610, and of these 51 percent were women, 49 percent were men (CSA, 2007). The area receives an annual rainfall of 800-1500 mm, the minimum and maximum temperature 180c and 250c, respectively with an altitude of 1805-2601 m.a.s.l. where agriculture is the main stay of the communities. teff (eragrostis teff), maize (Zea maya), Wheat (Triticum aestivum), Field pea (Phaseeolus sativum), Haricot bean (Phaseeolus vulgaris) are among the major types of crops grown in study area. The total area of the watershed is 419.9. With in watershed the slope ranges from 0% to 116% where majority of the crop land lay between 10-20% (DGWAO, 2016). Soil erosion, poor land management practices, low soil productivity, low fodder supply, and intensive cultivation were major problems existed in Bashe micro watershed for long period of time (DGWAO, 2018). Fanyajuu type of physical soil conservation practices is commonly implemented on Bashe micro watershed farm lands to cure degraded land following SNNPRS regional recommendation (SNNPRS Agr. 2012). To rehabilitate physical conservation biologically and also for other purpose, farmers have been growing elephant grass (P. Purpureum), Sesbania sesban (S.sesban), Desho grass (Pennisetum Pedicelatu), and peagon pea (Cajanus Cajan) as on embankments (DGWAO, 2018).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig.1 Study area Bashe micro watershed

Household Survey and data Collection

To evaluate farmers' perceptions about soil conservation practices structured questionnaire were prepared. A total of 208 households owning farm land are registered in the watershed of which respondents were randomly selected for interview using Yamane (1969) formula with an error margin of 10% and confidence interval of 90% which is indicated as follows.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Where "n" Sample size, N, is size of total household in study area, e is margin of error or degree of accuracy desired (i.e.10% or 0.1). The sample size Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Thus, 67 + 4 = 71 willing household farmers were interviewed. The questionnaire in (appendix) addressed about socio-economic conditions, soil fertility management and extent of erosion, participation in SWC activities, and appropriateness evaluation of SWC, maintenance time of SWC and effects of SWC activities.

Data Analysis

Survey data was analyzed statistical pakage for social sciences window 16 (SPSS, 2007) software version 20.

Result and Discussion

Demography and Land holding Size

According to demographic data, 94.4% of household respondents in Bashe micro watershed were male while the remaining 5.6% were female headed in which majority (> 95%) were above 30 years old (i.e. adults) (Table 1). It is clear that the engagement of SWC practices is more by adults. This is because they dominantly engaging in farming activities and can notice that risk of soil erosion, the decline of soil fertility and crop productivity so that become part in searching possible solution and action in overcoming the problem. Data regarding education level revealed that 39.4% of respondents are found not educated while 60.6% attended primary school. As farmers are educated they could be close to agricultural technologies and information. Thus they better understand the risk of erosion and become faster to implement and manage SWC practices.

According to Gebreslassie and Tamirat (2015) revealed that 36.4% of total sample respondents have atteneded grade 5-8, and they are more eager to train and adopt SWC practices than illiterate. Eventhough, farmers are more diversified in their educational level education affects implementation of SWC practices. The better they attained the education, the more they understand the risk of soil erosion and access to technology then adopts Swc practices.

Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of Respondent (N=71)

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Source: Owen Survey 2020.

Land holding Land is one of the most important natural resource used for different purpose. Majority (67.6%) of the respondents do farming on land size <0.5 ha (Table 2). The proportion and size of land is indicated as follows: 49.3% (<0.2 ha), 28.3% (0.2-0.5 ha), 16.9% (0.5-1ha), and 5.6% (1.1-2 ha) which implies shortage of land is a limiting factor affecting agricultural activities. In this survey, land size influenced easy engagement of well-designed SWC practices even though farmers observe the problem of soil erosion. They opined that SWC occupies large area that is being used for crop cultivation. Farmers intentionally mentioned that SWC practices hold more land and quantitatively briefed that when fanyajuu is constructed, a single standard structure occupies about 1.85m of land (i.e. base of embankment=1.20m, berm=15cm and bund width=50cm); and as the number of structures increases it would occupy more area and reduce the area of available for cultivation. The return from SWC practices are mostly not immediate (Zenebe et al., 2018) suggesting that the embankment should be planted with multi-purpose crops to stabilize the physical structure as well as effective use of land as fodder sources. Table 2 also depicts that land holding size with time has been declining mainly because of increasing population. Generally, those farmers hold relatively large lands are faster to implement SWC. Tesfaye et al. (2013) reported that some farmers having the larger land sizes (>1.5 ha) showed an interest in investing in conservation technologies especially in maintenance.

Table 2: Land holds size of the respondents

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Source: Owen Survey, 2020

Slope and Topograpy of the area

Slope of Bashe micro watershed Varies from 1 to 116% and charterized from flat to hilly topopraphy. Based on Digital Elevation Model (DEM), the slope ranges of the study area vary from 1-116 %. Of which 15% is under flat slope (FS), 21% gently slope (GS), 42% Strong slope (SS) and 22 % is found under Hilly slope (HS), and which implies that the area is highly fragile and need to be conserved and stabilized by biological measures. It is impossible to carry out agricultural activities with out implementation of SWC practices in such undulated topography. Because majority of farm lands lie under hilly slope range >17 %. Gebreslassie and Tamirat (2015) reported preferable slope for agricultural activites (cultivation) is practiced in gentle slope but 63% of respondents from upper stream practicing agricultural farming system in mountainous and steep area for the purpose of cultivation taking nature of topography as opportunity to adopt SWC practices. Similarily, in Bashe watershed agricultural activities are being practiced under sensitive environment and farmer learned more from existing hardship of the environment to survive

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Fig 2. Study area.

Soil Fertility Management and Perception on erosion hazard

From survey result it is noted that 77.5% of respondents rotated cereal with pulse crops to replenish soil fertility, control pests, and receive yield advantage on succeeding crop. On the other hand, farmers either removed and grazed (94%) or burned (6%) the residue of the crop grown from the field which could negatively influence soil organic matter (Fanuel et al., 2016) and resulted weak aggregate stability that consequently make the soil susceptible for erosion. Depletion of OM and destruction of soil aggregates lead to increased rates of soil losses in cultivated areas (Kjell et al., 2002). Data regarding soil erosion revealed that majority of respondents (84.5%) perceived that soil erosion is critical problem (Table 3). This is in line with the study in Northwest Ethiopia by Simeneh et al. (2016) who reported that almost all farmers perceived that soil erosion is as major problem. Farmers in the study area weighted the extent soil erosion for the last five years as sever (8.4%), medium (21) and decreasing (70.6) (Table 3). The decreasing in status of soil erosion in Bashe micro watershed In the meantime, farmers observed that the degree of soil erosion was mainly achieved through implementation of soil conservation measures. More over 84.5% respondents generally perceived that erosion is a manageable problem. Awdenegest and Holden (2007) argued that farmers believed that hazard of soil erosion and soil fertility losses can be controlled. Other research conducted by Haweni (2015) confirmed that greater than 60% of the farmers interviewed perceived that soil moisture content of their farm land was increased due to soil and water conservation structures.

Table 3: Agronomic practices, perception on erosion hazard, soil management and benefit responses to soil conservation practices.

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Source: Owen Survey, 2020

Participation and Perception on Effectiveness and Maintenance of SWC Structures

The survey result indicated that 84.5% of respondents have implemented SWC practices on their farm land to protect their farm land from risks of soil erosion because their land has been exposed to the erosion and if they left it bare it would be degraded whereas 16.0% respondents never construct SWC measures on their farm lands because of labor shortage, reduce land size and fear of insect hide in it (Table 4). Among SWC types, Fanyajuu type of SWC structure is more preferred by the farmers and widely implemented (59.2%) because it can easily developed into bench terrace and the fertile soil that is taken from upper part of the cultivated land has been stored in embankment rather than entered into bund. Farmers' opined that fanyajuu structure requires much labor to throw the soil up and during maintenance but point out that its weight of advantage is far greater than disadvantages. Soil bund and bench terrace implemented as second and third choice of their physical conservation structures, 22.4% and 8.4% respectively. According to Wage et al. (2007) fanyajuu bund scored first then followed by soil bund because fanyajuu structures will create bench terraces faster than other structures and the eroded particles (upper fertile soil) deposited on its embankment than entering into its bund. Meanwhile, majority of respondents (86.6%) found that the implemented SWC types were appropriateness/effective/ in reducing soil erosion and runoff losses, and conserving soil moisture during growing period. Terracing could be one way of stopping or reducing the loss of soil particles and saving soil and water (Wheaton Monke, 2001).

Noticing the advantage, 60.5% of respondents maintain constructed SWC practices every year while 30.4% maintain at 2 year interval and very few maintained between 3 and 5 years. Majority of farmers (91%) maintain SWC structures within two year because during first year of construction the conservation structures are not well stabilized. As age of structures increases, stability of structure increase and reduced maintenance except when structures gets 5 years and above. At this time some insects or pests used planted grasses as home and may damage crops, at this point farmers destruct the old structure and maintain it again. Fanyajuu and soil bund is widely implemented SWC practices in Bashe micro watershed and they effectively controlled soil erosion. 59.2% of respondents implemented fanyajuu while 22.4% are soil bund. Fanyajuu received more advantages because of easily developed into bench and deposited soil particles eroded from uoper farm land on its embankment rather enetered into the bund. Gebreslassie and Tamirat (2015) indicated that among conservation practices communities were found more willing to participate in fanyajuu and soil bund conservation practices because of familiarity with the technology. Eleni (2008) also indicated that introduced soil and water conservation measures, fanya-juu and soil bunds, were widely acknowledged as being effective measures in arresting soil erosion and as having the potential to improve land productivity.

Table.4 Participation in SWC activities, SWC appropriateness, and maintenance time of SWC

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Source: Owen Survey, 2020

Integration biological measures with physical SWC activities were done by 78.4% of Respondents stabilize. According to Barbier (1990), combination of physical structures with biological measures minimizes of soil loss, improves soil physical, chemical and biological properties and subsequently enhances productivity. Wage et al. (2007) also indicated that integrated conservation structure of physical with biological stabilization 2 years after implementation resulted noticeable improvements in soil productivity by farmers. Physical SWC measures when integrated with biological measures become financially viable and compensated the area occupied by the structure (Zenebe et al., 2017). Farmers in the study area planted both grasses and legumes on banks of bunds to stabilize the structure. This includes elephant grass (P. Purpureum), Sesbania sesban (S.sesban), desho grass (Pennisetum Pedicelatu), and peagon pea (Cajanus Cajan) (Table 5). Such integration would help farmers have access to animal feed, grain, improve water infiltration in to the soil, add organic matter to the soil and then increase soil fertility. Physical and biological soil conservation measures and soil fertility improvement activities implemented in Wolaita conserved the soil and improved soil fertility (Safene et al., 2006).

Very few respondents (17%) replied that they were destructing the SWC measures which were constructed through different program like watershed campaign, public productive safety net program and their own labor. This was attributed to different factors such as searching of fertile soil, to avoid hiding of crop pests (e.g. rodents), and to increase cultivated land.

Effectiveness of SWC practices

Effectiveness of SWC measures by the farmers was assessed based on their own visual criteria observed on the farm and crop such as reduction on runoff and soil erosion (e.g. accumulation of sediments near the structures), improvements in soil moisture, crop appearance (green color, vigorous and maturity time) and harvested grain yield (Table 5). The survey result revealed that 70.6% of respondents acknowledged that runoff and soil erosion of conserved farm land is reduced as compared to non-conserved farms. In addition, 70% of respondents observed strong crop appearance (green color, vigorous and extended maturity time) as a result of SWC practices. Furthermore, farmers explained that SWC measures resulted to increased number of branches on pulse crops /tillers on wheat and teff crops (71.4%), taller plant height (70%) and finally led to increased grain yield (71.4%). This survey result is in conformity with soil and crop analysis wherein soil, growth and yield were better on conserved farm land.

Table 5: Perception on the effects of SWC practices on extent of runoff and soil erosion, and crop performance

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Source: Owen Survey, 2020

Surveyed farmers' related the good crop performance to enriched fertile soil as a result of sediments accumulation, retained moisture in all growth period and during cessation of rainfall, use of other complementary practices (e.g. improved agronomic and fertilizer application), avoided loss of applied fertilizer and longer duration of SWC after construction. In the study area majority (80%) of respondents replied that yield increment has been started two years after SWC implementation. According to farmers', those farm lands showing immediate yield advantage one year after conservation work may be related to the lesser extent of soil degradation and use of other complementary practices (e.g. improved agronomic and soil fertility management practices). Kebede et al. (2013) reported that 74.5% respondents indicated that effects of SWC practices in farm land increase crop yield immediately after construction and other respondents observed a yield increase within two years after construction. Tanto and Laekemariam (2019) confirmed that SWC practices influenced soil organic carbon (OC) of farm lands. Soil OC ranges between 1.34% and 1.74% in which integrated SWC established for 5 years had the highest soil OC and the minimum was obtained from non-conserved cultivated land. This imples that SWC practices reduce soil erosion and keep the sediments on farm land hence increase soil nutrients.

The same authors reported that use of SWC practices significantly increased biomass yield of wheat. The maximum total biomass from integrated SWC for 5 year was 11ton/ha which is 85.5% more than the minimum from non-conserved cultivated farm (5.93 ton/ha). The longer the establishment year of SWC practices and corresponding integration with biological measures has resulted corresponding advantage on biomass yield of wheat and confirmed that grain yield of wheat was significantly increased due to implementation of SWC practices that vary between 2.47 t/ha-1 (non conserved land) and 4.27t/ha-1 (integrated SWC foe 5 years). Both increament of biomass and grain yield was due to implementation of SWC practice and reduction of soil erosion and deposition of sediment.

Fig: 2 Household responses in implementation of Soil and Water Conservation practices

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Owen Survey, 2021

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Owen Survey, 2021

Fig.1 The sample respondents as SWC practice conserve soil.

66.7% of respondents strongly agree that SWC measures conserve the soil while 25% agree and a few respondants (8.3%) neutral. This result agree with Meseret and Dawit (2019) finding that SWC measures increase in soil fertility, increase soil depth and moisture conservation, 85%, 90% and 90% respectively.

Source: Owen Survey, 2021


Soil erosion is one of fundamental problem all over the world, especially in developing countries like Ethiopia the problem is more aggravated by high population growth, poor soil management practices and expansion of agricultural land leads the soil to be eroded and the productivity of the crop reduced. To solve the problem Soil and Water Conservation practices has been implemented in study area for morethan two decades. 84.5% sampled respondents positively perceived that SWC measures contrl soil erosion and reduce runoff which is the major challenge in soil fertility depletion and crop production; and 86.6% observed that implementation of SWC practices appropriate in reducing runoff and soil erosion. These results indicate that farmer's awareness towards the damage of soil erosion and implementation of the solution of conservation measure from time to time is increasing. It is concluded that farmers positively perceieved that SWC practices have positive impacts on reducing soil erosion, improving soil nutrient and hence increasing crop productivity, however, the effect is more pronounced under integrated (physical SWC with biological SWC) practices.


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Farmers Perception towards the Implementation of Soil and Water Conservation Practices in Southern Ethiopia
Watershed Management
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farmers, perception, implementation, soil, water, conservation, practices, southern, ethiopia
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Tesfaye Tanto (Author), 2022, Farmers Perception towards the Implementation of Soil and Water Conservation Practices in Southern Ethiopia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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